18 Dec 18
The Scottish Sun
BOOTED, battered, bruised.
Jose Mourinho’s reign at Old Trafford will leave only a legacy of chaos and controversy.
Jose Mourinho’s legacy at Manchester United is over
He departs a broken man. A broken manager.
Broken, not by events at Carrington and Old Trafford. Those were merely the symptoms.
But by the three years at what should have been his crowning glory, his ultimate managerial job.
Mourinho craved the role at Real Madrid.
His time at Manchester United was marred by a series of high profile bust-ups
The spark in Jose Mourinho’s eyes have disappeared
He had always wanted it, to return to Spain and show Barcelona what they lost when they let him leave.
No wonder Real wanted him so much either.
After all, Mourinho was the manager with the Midas touch.
He had conquered Europe once, with Porto. Porto!
It all started unravelling for Jose Mourinho while at Real Madrid
The Portuguese boss shot to fame when he guided Porto to Champions League triumph
Then, at Chelsea, bolstered by Roman Abramovich’s warchest, Mourinho had built a Blue Machine. A footballing force which ripped up the established order and tore it into little bits.
He took Inter Milan and stormed the barricades again, outlasting the seemingly unbeatable Barca before giving a Champions league Final masterclass in organisation to put one-time mentor Louis Van Gaal in his place.
That 2010 Final was in the Bernabeu, with Mourinho house-hunting before the champagne corks popped.
Yet by the time Mourinho left Madrid, three years later, to walk back into the embrace of Abramovich, things had changed. More crucially, he had changed.
In those first three big gigs, in Lisbon, London and Milan, the one common link was Mourinho himself and the cult he created around him.
He later stunned Barcelona while manager of Inter Milan
Jose Mourinho lost trust in his players during his time at Real Madrid
Players who would walk through brick walls for the manager. Who listened because they knew he had the answers. Who trusted him to get every call right.
Yes, it was not always plain sailing. Not always smooth. Not with a man, and a manager, who demanded so much – and made himself the centre of everything good.
But if players are winning, especially players winning things they did not dream of winning, the downside takes longer to materialise.
Mourinho brilliantly, at all three clubs, identified the key lieutenants in his dressing room and made him his internal Praetorian guard.
At Porto, it was Vitor Baia and Ricardo Carvalho, Costinha, Maniche and Benni McCarthy.
At Chelsea, John Terry and Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech, plus his fellow Portuguese clique.
Jose Mourinho became a icon and fan favourite at Chelsea
But his second spell at the Blues further descended into chaos
And in Milan, Javier Zanetti, Walter Samuel, Marco Materazzi, Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto’o.
The strongmen of the team, the toughest competitors, the men who echoed and reinforced Mourinho’s win at all and any costs mentality.
The approach was simple. Recruit them and the rest would follow.
He wrung then dry. Of course he did. Players were collateral, to be used, damaged and waved goodbye to as either he or they went.
That was why Mourinho was always a short-term hit. He could never, for all his words to the contrary, ever really put down roots. It could only last for so long.
But in that window of opportunity, Mourinho saw them all as potential allies, moths to his flame.
Mourinho led, they followed, HE won.
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Any if anybody did not buy into it, they went. Quickly. Without any compunction.
It was the same mentality, approach and attitude he took into Madrid. Where he came up against a brick wall.
Even from the start, there were mutters and murmurings.
The likes of Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos believed Mourinho played favourites, especially with the players who, like the manager, were represented by Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes.
That was not just Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe but also left-back Fabio Coentrao and others.
Mourinho had been brought in to bring down Pep Guardiola’s Barca.
Few would have backed themselves to achieve it but Mourinho did feel himself a Special One, even more so after Inter.
If he could not, initially, beat Guardiola on the pitch, he would attempt to do it off the field.
Mourinho’s rivalry with Pep Guardiola was well publicised
But Casillas and Ramos, in particular, did not buy into the mind-games and paranoia.
And, as so often, when things began to melt down in Mourinho’s infamous third season, their dissent spread, like wildfire.
Where Mourinho had believed all players were potential allies, he now saw them all as potential enemies. He started to row with all of them, including Pepe and Ronaldo, calling them all out publicly.
One Mourinho intimate from that Madrid era explained: “Jose did not feel he could trust anybody.
“We would have the final meeting in the hotel, before we left for the ground. Jose would read out the team and order everyone not to leak. By the time we got on the coach, 15 minutes later, the team was all over the radio stations.”
The United board finally succumbed to the pressure to axe the manager
Chelsea and the homecoming, back to the fans who were still singing his name six years after he left, was supposed to be the balm for those Madrid wounds.
But the Mourinho who reappeared at Stamford Bridge in 2013 was not the same man.
Even at his best, Mourinho could be, in turns, vicious, vindictive, manipulative.
But it was also leavened by that sense of humour. The fun. The lightness of mood.
Second time round, Mourinho was greyer, both physically and mentally. There was a cloud hanging him.
And the bond, even with his old guard, was not the same. That warmth had gone. As had the light and lustre in his eyes.
He still wanted to win. He still knew how to win. And how to get under the skin of his rivals.
But the reservoir of good will inside Chelsea had run dry.
And so, within weeks of that title triumph in 2015, the tensions and frustrations broke out into open warfare.
When Mourinho branded some of his own players – and suspicion wrongly fell on Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard – as “rats” for leaking team news, he was back where he had been at Madrid.
Jose Mourinho had a habit of losing the faith of the dressing room
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That was the “palpable discord” cited by Chelsea as the reason for his sacking half-way through the club’s Christmas dinner on December 17 2015.
Within a week of leaving, Mourinho was making it clear he fancied the United job, whenever they decided to get rid of Van Gaal.
He had to wait for a few months but was then handed the keys to the bank.
The first season brought friction but silverware. The League Cup and the Europa League.
Yet Mourinho was still living in the Lowry Hotel, commuting to and from London. It never felt permanent.
And, increasingly, the issues behind the scenes welled up.
United wanted Paul Pogba to be the symbol of their renewal. Yet with every passing month, the Frenchman relationship with Mourinho plumbed new depths.
Just as Mourinho blamed the dressing room at Madrid and Chelsea for poisoning the well, now it was the same at United.
He went after most of them. Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford, the centre-halves. Everyone.
There seemed there one thing about United that united the players – animosity towards the manager.
It could not last. It has not lasted.
And Mourinho, diminished and now out of work, will find it hard to change the new dynamic.